Thursday, August 15, 2019

Nostalgia Kitchen Hot to Tot

Cooking for me isn't just food, it's nostalgia.  Many of my earlier memories are of my Mom in the mid/late sixties in the kitchen making most things from scratch but still spoiling us occasionally with such goodies as Kool-Aid, Popsicles, Hostess products, Tater Tots and those little crinkle-cut oven fries which we got only on Friday night with the small steak from the home raised steer, sourdough toast, green beans and orange slices.

I was a big fan of the Tater Tot and as a kid was very disappointed to find out the lyrics to that Christmas Carol was NOT "Tater Tots with their Eyes all Aglow".
Mom had a couple of recipes that were made frequently in our house. One was called "Husband's Delight" that had a mysterious creamy/cheesy layer between two layers of noodles in Italian meat sauce. It was a great way to use up leftover meat sauce and that last couple cups of macaroni or pasta shells in the cupboard.
The second was hamburger and Walla Walla sweet onion fried up and mixed with cream of something and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and topped with tater tots.  It was a typical Lutheran Basement Church Supper dish.

I had a bag of Schwans Crispy Taters (their version of Tots, a bit more expensive, but really good with no dairy or fillers for those so inclined).

What if I combine the tastier elements of both, but instead of an Italian based sauce, make a Sloppy Joe version?

Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Bake (recipe in comments)
Sweet and savory homemade Sloppy Joe sauce with peppers and onions surrounding garlic infused sour cream/cream cheese layer, and topped with crispy tater tots.  It's nothing like Mom made, yet it was delicious and comforting, like the best of "Mom" cooking.  It had a lot of flavor but was mild enough that  kids should like it and won't even notice the extra veggies you stuck in the sauce. If you want to up the spice a bit, just add an extra shake or two of crushed red pepper to the sauce.
I made it for friends who said it was good enough I should share the recipe.
With some veggies as a side dish, it easily feeds six, wasn't hard to make and  was assembled in this case, out of a mish-mash of little bits and pieces in the fridge so it  was relatively inexpensive to make.


  1. Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Bake

    Preheat oven to 425 F.

    1/2 pound Sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
    1/2 pound hamburger
    2 and 1/2 teaspoons steak seasoning ( I used McCormick Grill Mates Molasses and Bacon Steak Seasoning)

    1 Tablespoon bacon fat
    1/2 large onion, chopped
    1/2 pepper, chopped (I used a mild orange pepper)
    1/4 cup brown sugar

    15-16 ounces tomato sauce (one of the medium cans)
    2 Tablespoons tomato paste
    1 Tablespoon Braggs apple cider vinegar
    1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    2-3 pinches crushed red pepper
    1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
    3/4 teaspoon yellow or Dijon mustard

    half of a regular sized pack of cream cheese plus 2 Tablespoons (softened at room temperature)
    1 and 1/2 cup sour cream
    3/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
    1 cup cheddar, divided (I was low on cheddar so sprinkled a little Parmesan on top)
    1/3 cup green onions (divided)
    Tater Tots

    Cook meat with steak seasoning, and drain (do not rinse)

    Combine cream cheese, sour cream, garlic powder and half of the chopped green onion.

    In large fry pan, brown chopped onion and 1/2 chopped pepper (red green, yellow, orange whatever you have left from perhaps a salad) in bacon fat until caramelized, add sugar, remove from heat and stir until the sugar is melted and caramelized.

    Add tomato sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard and meat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until thickened and the liquid reduced.

    Place half the meat sauce in a 8 x 10 inch casserole dish.

    Spread cream cheese mixture over meat sauce, sprinkle with half of the cheddar cheese and top with remaining meat sauce.

    Top with a layer of tater tots and bake at 425 F. for 20-24 minutes until the potatoes are browned and crispy. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar and green onion as it comes out of the oven.

  2. Sounds and looks delicious!!!

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  3. that looks super tasty!!!! we would stick with it... efurry day ;L)

  4. Tater tots are part of comfort food and provide happy childhood memories.


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